posted on July 03, 2015 03:27
Since we posted the blog below on May 16, 2014, we have observed that major portions of the NCAA’s sanctions of Penn State have been overturned for being beyond the authority that member institutions have given the NCAA. This reminds us of the need to have our own organization continuously working on rules and penalties, and the authority to make and enforce such rules and penalties, that may become necessary in the future for the ever-growing range of issues we confront in school sport.
We take no comfort when leaders of sports on other levels get embroiled in controversy; but we do try to learn from those situations.
For example, we watched very closely in 2012 how the National Collegiate Athletic Association responded fast and with force to the horrific sex abuse scandal at Penn State. The NCAA may have ignored its prescribed due process and exceeded its penalty authority, winning mostly praise from the public; but now the NCAA is mired in litigation over the legality of its swift and severe actions.
We are currently observing what could be a similar scenario for the National Basketball Association. Its commissioner moved quickly to impose a lifetime ban and other sanctions after racist public statements by an NBA team owner. While most people have praised the speed and severity of the commissioner’s actions, some people note that the recent racist remarks were not something new for this owner and the unprecedented penalties may be the subject of a lifetime of litigation.
The lesson of these situations for leaders in other places and on other levels is to be especially cautious about using power in popular ways. No matter how horrible the transgression, no matter how angry it makes you personally, follow the established rules of procedure and keep within the limits of your explicit authority.
I confess that this can be frustrating and that I have sometimes felt paralysis more than power when performing the role as MHSAA investigator and penalizer. But some of that frustration may be my own fault. If such frustrations are too common, we should be reworking the organization’s Constitution and rules, with the members’ agreement, to streamline process and strengthen penalties.
Significant steps in this direction have been occurring. For example, in May of 2013, the Representative Council adopted the athletic-related transfer rule; and on May 4, 2014, the Council increased the maximum penalty for undue influence from one year to four years for both students and adults.